Weight training can help protect the brain from degeneration, according to a new research. Findings by researchers at the University of Sydney further highlighted that this protective mechanism can last for many months after training. In fact, according to the research, the areas of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s disease are protected for one year after training.
The Australian research, published in NeuroImage: Clinical, found that six months of strength training led to cognitive improvements in people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and slowed neurodegeneration linked with Alzheimer’s disease.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), although dementia mainly affects older people, it is not a normal part of ageing. Worldwide, around 50 million people have dementia, and there are nearly 10 million new cases every year.
Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia and may contribute to 60–70 per cent of cases.
“This research highlights the direct benefit of strength training on brain health, particularly for people with MCI,” says Dr Suhail Al Rukn, Consultant Neurologist and Head of the Stroke Unit at Rashid Hospital. “It reflects that strength training has the potential to be a dementia risk-reduction strategy. However, it is important for all of us to remember that exercise has a tremendous positive impact on both physical and mental health and should be a part of everyone’s regular routine.
“Other studies discuss the benefit of cardiovascular exercise on brain health. Moreover, there are studies that show how inactivity is detrimental for health and a risk factor for heart disease. Therefore, my advice would be that people should adopt a regular exercise routine, which includes both forms of exercise as well as stretching such as yoga or Pilates so that they have a holistic workout programme.
“Consistency is really important and the minimum amount of exercise per week ideally is 30 minutes five days a week.”
Dr Al Rukn said that people should increase their non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). “This basically means that people should not depend on that one hour fitness class and remain inactive throughout the day. Basically, NEAT is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, analysis of 13 studies concluded that sitting time and activity levels found in those who sat for more than eight hours a day with no physical activity had a risk of dying similar to the risks of dying posed by obesity and smoking.
“With several fitness trackers and apps, it’s simple to stay on track and get the minimum number of steps needed to stay active per day. Additionally, getting adequate hours of sleep per night is fundamental for brain health.”